You'll find no better overview of home entertainment than in the following pages, where we present the winners of Sound & Vision's 2001 Reviewer's Choice Awards.
Of the nearly 150 products tested this year, our reviewers have selected 21 systems and components that stand out in terms of technological sophistication, performance, and value. Among them you'll find today's most popular - and promising - audio/video technologies.
The continued explosion of DVD is embodied in several special components, including the first DVD camcorder, a second-generation DVD recorder, and a player that spins both DVD-Videos and Super Audio CDs. Two top-performing high-definition TV monitors underscore the promise of digital TV, while a new kind of hard-disk-based CD recorder points the way to the future of home audio recording. And in the traditional categories, we've singled out three A/V receivers along with half a dozen distinctive speaker systems. Congratulations to the winning companies - and to anyone who is fortunate enough to own one of these outstanding products!
Energy Take 5.2 Home Theater Speaker System
(original review, June) The shorthand note I scribbled to myself while listening to this system pretty much says it all: "Cheap as mud, but still one of the best mini-suites out there." Energy's vest-pocket Take 5.2 array plus a Take 8.2 subwoofer ($900) manages the tricky transition between the sub and the satellite speakers as well as any similar size system I've encountered. And the designers made smart choices when addressing the inevitable compromises in any setup this compact and inexpensive. For instance, the Take 5.2 doesn't sacrifice vocal accuracy for false "bass," and it doesn't push the treble to impress less experienced listeners with artificial "presence" or "sparkle." In two-channel playback, the system's imaging was quite a bit better than its plebian price would lead you to expect. You won't be able to plumb the sonic depths (we're talking an 8-inch subwoofer here!), but the Take 5.2 will fill the average family room with unexpectedly well-balanced sound at a price most entry-level buyers can afford.
Energy Speaker Systems - www.energy-speakers.com, 416-321-1800
- Daniel Kumin
Samsung DVD-M301 DVD-Video Player
(original review, June) Dealers' shelves sag under the weight of countless DVD players. So why does the Samsung DVD-M301, perhaps unremarkable at first glance, deserve a Reviewer's Choice Award? Because it delivers incredible bang for the buck. This little beauty plays both CD-Rs and CD-RWs, including those holding hundreds of songs in the popular MP3 format. It also provides Spatializer N-2-2 processing to simulate surround sound from just two speakers, has a nifty 2x speed with normal-pitch audio, offers a Screen Fit feature that crops a widescreen movie to fill a 4:3 aspect ratio screen, delivers a high-quality component-video signal, and is accompanied by an upscale remote with a joystick - all for a mere $169. Samsung proves that you really don't have to pay a lot for a good DVD player. We all ooh and aah at the high-end stuff, but it's first-rate, aggressively priced players like the DVD-M301 that have made DVD-Video such a huge success. Samsung Electronics America - www.samsungusa.com, 800-726-7864
- Ken C. Pohlmann
Hitachi DZ-MV100A DVD Camcorder
(original review, June) The DZ-MV100A camcorder ($2,000), the first of its kind, shows off the versatility of digital technology by letting you save MPEG-2 video and JPEG stills on a 3-inch DVD-RAM disc. Because the images are stored digitally, you can manipulate them as you like, and their excellent picture quality won't degrade with copying. And because the stored data is on a DVD, you can navigate it instantly, and it won't degrade with repeated playings. Unlike a VCR, the DZ-MV100A won't let you unintentionally record over a previously stored scene, but you can easily delete unwanted portions. On the downside, the 3-inch discs aren't compatible with DVD-Video players or most computers. And unless your computer has a DVD-RAM drive that conforms to Book 2.1 standards, you'll have to use the cam's USB connector to download images (there's no FireWire port). Still, the DZ-M100A's excellent features, combined with the durability and convenience of optical discs, make it a winning glimpse into home video's future.
Hitachi America - www.hitachi.com, 800-448-224
- Teri Scaduto
B&W DM 303 Home Theater Speaker System
(original review, May) If I told you that a speaker system costing just under $1,300 could carry the same sonic signature as one costing ten times that much, you'd probably think I was nuts. Yet this B&W system - comprising DM 303 left and right front and surround speakers, an LCR 3 center speaker, and an ASW 500 subwoofer - does just that. It reproduces dialogue, music, and special effects with the same basic accuracy and neutrality as the company's famous megabuck systems. Voices in particular sound remarkably natural. And the speakers also share the fit and finish of their more prestigious brethren, making them a joy to look at as well as to hear. What separates this rig from B&W's deluxe systems are bass and decibels. The DM 303-based system can't go as deep or play as loud as larger speakers. But that doesn't mean you'll have to sacrifice the thrills and chills of great home theater - it just means your neighbors won't have to share in the experience.
B&W Loudspeakers of America - www.bwspeakers.com, 800-370-3740
- Rich Warren
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